Last week I invited you to vote for your favorite “Jew-approved” Christmas movie, and nearly 200 of you did. What, exactly, is a “Jew-approved” Christmas movie? Well, I like to define it as a Christmas movie whose theme or motif, if you will, is applicable—and important—to all people, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. That motif, simply put, is don’t be an asshole, and don’t be cynical.
So, how do each of these five movies remind us humble folks to not be assholes? Let me explain.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)
Our top film is the beloved “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It was pretty strange to watch this film for the very first time as an adult. (Yes, it’s true.) I’ve seen so many movies and TV shows that reference this film, so I’ve always just interpreted what happens in the movie without actually knowing what happens. It’s from a time when films had different pacing, and we, the audience, spend a long time with George Bailey and see him for the decent but frustrated man he is. But the basic, and most wonderful point of the whole film, is this: Being a decent human being has a massive affect on the world around you. No matter what holiday you celebrate, this lesson is valuable to us all. (Side note: George’s wife, Mary, is clearly the true MVP of the movie.)
So, as we approach 2016, let’s all try to make the world a better place, and not be assholes. Who’s with me?!
“Love Actually” (2003)
This was my first time seeing this movie. Much like “A Christmas Story,” parts of this movie have seeped into general pop culture, so I imagine watching it for the first time now is much different from watching it when it first premiered. Many clones of this film have since been released, and though it could technically take place on any other holiday (ahem, Valentine’s Day, ahem), Christmas in the film represents a time to reevaluate your life. For some characters this makes them happy; for others it doesn’t.
I actually saw this movie in a theater. Why, you ask? Because it was peak Will Ferrell! Sandwiched between “Old School” and “Anchorman,” “Elf” shows Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human raised as a Christmas elf. Beyond the ridiculous premise and standard tropes, what this film clearly demonstrates is that hope and optimism accomplish more than sarcasm and cynicism. That’s definitely a lesson we should all remember.
“Die Hard” (1988)
Yep, you read that right. While this movie heralded the return of relatable action heroes, it’s on my list for another reason: John McClane gets stuck in Nakatomi Plaza because he’s trying to reconnect with his estranged wife at Christmas. Saving her from a group of terrorists/thieves (while barefoot, no less) is certainly one way to win back her affections, but during the process he begins to realize how selfish he was about her decision to pursue her career. The fact that an action movie takes time to deal with issues like two-parent working families is actually quite extraordinary.
“A Christmas Story” (1983)
True story: I just watched this movie for the very first time. I know, I know. I have never celebrated Christmas, but I was once a young boy (shocking, I know), and boy did this film remind me what it’s like to be Ralphie’s age and to want something so badly it encapsulates your entire existence. (For me it was Super Nintendo, which I spent months waiting for and eventually got, and yes, it was everything I hoped it would be and more.) It’s also a lovely take on young friendship and standing up to bullies. Being reminded of what it’s like to be a child is an easy way to melt my cynical heart.